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History Questions

1. Why is Voltaire’s discussion of the Royal Exchange relevant to his discussion of religion in Great Britain?

Voltaire’s discussion on the Royal Exchange relates with the discussion of religion in Great Britain since in both cases there is harmony and respect for all the involved parties. In Great Britain, there are many religious groups such as the Episcopal and Presbyterian denominations mentioned in the discussion. Similarly in the Royal Exchange, there are many representatives from different backgrounds that have to coexist and work freely for the utility of men. Great Britain is compared to this safe haven that all types of religion cam assemble in and perform their various beliefs without fear of interference from other groups. The most important factor for a nation’s representative in the Royal Exchange is to strike the best foreign exchange deals, while for a religious denomination; the most important factor is for them to perform their religious beliefs without interference.

2. What does Voltaire think of Presbyterian ministers? What motivates them? What effect have they had on the religious and social life of Britain? What do his comments in the passage suggest about his attitude towards religious belief in general?

Voltaire thinks that Presbyterian ministers hate each other and relate with each other in cordiality. He also believes that all clergy members are motivated by the ambition to become masters in their denomination. The Presbyterian ministers aspire to have control over major ceremonies in Great Britain by incorporating religious cultures and practices in all the functions that they oversee.

The aspect of religious incorporation in people’s life is seen through marriages in Britain that are social events where a Presbyterian minister has to lead the couple in taking their marriage vows. The swearing in of members of parliament and other government officials also involves taking of an oath guided by religious principles such as lifting up of a bible. Voltaire’s attitude towards the Presbyterian ministers is definitely that of contempt since he regards to them as ambitious masters that continuously seek attention and acknowledgement from every aspect of life.

3. Why does Voltaire believe that Britain enjoys religious peace?

Voltaire believes that Britain enjoys religious peace because of their tolerant approach towards matters religion. In the discussion, Voltaire acknowledges the fact that Britain is a country with many religions that balance harmoniously with each other due to the fact that every English man is free to select their denomination. The many religious groups in Britain display their respect for each other’s religion due to the fact that they are all headed for heaven even through different passages.

1. How, according to Smith did rich men with few attractive goods available to purchase use their wealth? How did this shape the social and political order? Rich men with few attractive goods that they can trade to acquire end up consuming their wealth. According to Adam Smith[footnoteRef:1], rich men were very generous with their wealth once they had little or nothing to purchase in the period before commerce and manufacture. The wealthy in society used to hold large banquets that they invited all in the society including their servants and dependents to partake. The act of holding banquets and festivities with the surplus wealth in rich men’s possession shaped the society in both social and political ways. Socially, the rich men became popular and highly regarded in society as everyone wanted to be affiliated with them. Politically, the rich men were viewed as rulers and in aristocratic set ups they were given leadership positions in their society. [1: Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,(1776). Methuen, 1950.]

2. Once such men began buying “baubles,” how did their relations with the poorer members of society change? How did this strengthen an emerging central government? The introduction of foreign commerce and manufacturing lead to the re-directing of rich men’s wealth to purchasing of baubles and not on the feeding of tenants on their land. The dependence of the poor on the tenants gradually decreased as they began to survive on their own without handouts from the rich. This aspect changed their relationship with the rich men that formerly acted as their administrators and rulers. The emerging central government was now able to regain control over their subjects and rule over them since their loyalty was no longer owed to their rich proprietors.

3. What does this version of history suggest about the likelihood and limits of human progress? About how such progress occurs?

The version of history described by Adam Smith reveals that change is an essential part of human progress. The change from the consumption of surplus wealth to investment into manufacturing and foreign commerce is responsible for the shape that the society has taken over the years. Utilization of wealth in a nation is an economic factor that has been used to measure human progress since the historic period. The central government in Adam Smith’s case was formed as a result of taking back the tools of production. Changing factors in a nation are, therefore, responsible for the human progress.


Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,(1776). Methuen, 1950.

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